It's kind of odd that all of this should coincide with Ash Wednesday, which also happens to be the 6th Anniversary of my 39th birthday and the big follow-up for my thyroid surgery. Depending on what my blood work looks like, I may, or may not, have to have more tests/treatments etc...
So Tuesday, as you might imagine, was a bit stressful, and I flipped my lid.
Really, I lost it.
I had to spend several hours just making myself sit still. I managed, but it was hard. I still have to go to confession. Good thing it's Lent, eh?
So, looking at the idealized and lovely ladies of Dante Gabriel (who, by the way was somewhat of a toad) and listening to the beautiful, stern verses of Christina have been a balm for my soul and I'd like to share them with you.
The Rossettis often collaborated on their work. They were a big Anglo-Italian family who were artists and poets and scholars. Imperfect, but working hard. It's a family after my own heart.
1.) "Buy From Us With Golden Curl"
An engraving by Dante Gabriel Rossetti for "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti
This engraving shows the anti-heroine, Laura, of "Goblin Market" preparing to sell a lock of her hair for some fruit that will fail to satisfy, but looks and tastes delicious. The only problem is that she can;t get enough of it. C. Rossetti uses her poetry to remind us of the reality of temptation and its ultimately unsatisfying ends. She even uses Laura's sister, Lizzie, to cure her, by an act of self-sacrifice. Sounds like a couple of other women we know, doesn't it?
2.) Ecce Ancilla Domini (The Annunciation)
An oil painting by Dante Gabriel with his sister, Christina (as a teen) as The Virgin Mary.
I just love this picture. What can I say? "Behold, I am the Handmaid of the Lord..."
3.) The Blessed Damozel
Here Dante Gabriel's poetry and art come together, much like William Blake in the Romantic Period, Dante Gabriel used poetry and art together to magnify the reader's experience.
here's the first stanza of the poem:
The blessed damozel leaned out
From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth
Of waters stilled at even;
She had three lilies in her hand,
And the stars in her hair were seven.
Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,
No wrought flowers did adorn,
But a white rose of Mary's gift,
For service meetly worn;
Her hair that lay along her back
Was yellow like ripe corn.
Herseemed she scarce had been a day
One of God's choristers;
4.) "In The Bleak Midwinter"
Yup. It's still winter here in Ohio. And it looks pretty bleak. Although this carol is sung at Christmas, I'm sharing the whole poem anyway. It is a beautiful reflection on humility: both the humility and simplicity embraced by Our Lord in becoming incarnate for us to die on a cross for our sins, and of the Blessed Mother, who trusted God and said, "Yes."
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
5.) And More from "Goblin Market"
At the end of Christina Rossetti's poem, Laura finds that her sister has taken on the punishment of a beating from the goblins in order to get the antidote to the poisonous fruit. And in addition, she watches through the night as Laura goes through withdrawal.
You've heard it said that you can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your family. It's the truth. One of my "sisters" came to my rescue yesterday, too. I'm very grateful. Reading this poem made me think of our conversation.
Here are the last seven lines of "Goblin Market":
"For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To life one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands."
Let's remember to be a sister to someone today. Please pray for me, and I will pray for you.